A very golfing Christmas

While a number of my friends in different parts of the country have been able to sneak in some bonus golf this December, I haven’t been quite as fortunate. 

Temperatures have been well above normal here in Minneapolis, but it hasn’t exactly been golf weather for many beyond the true diehards. Plus, the combination of work and short days made it difficult.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a golfing Christmas. Yesterday afternoon I got texts from two of my buddies who wanted to share their haul. One got a new set of irons and another got Ryder Cup tickets. Talk about something that is better than a sweater.

Me? Well, here’s what I scored:

  

So what was the haul here? I might have had some influence on these, but it is always good to find some golf gear under the tree.

Nike 1/4 zip Ryder Cup pullover: I’m not always a huge fan of dated items as they become, well, dated. But I requested this one in part because the Ryder Cup is still nine months from now and because I spent a summer in college working at Hazeltine. I know there are people out there who dog the course for being a hard slog that lacks personality, but I have good memories of the place. 

The Confidential Guide: The original version of The Confidential Guide, written by Tom Doak, came out in the mid-90s. It is difficult to find in print and is expensive when you do find it. A year ago, Doak added three co-authors and they are in the process of putting out a five-volume version. I didn’t get the Volume 1, which includes Great Britian and Ireland, but I’m excited about the two editions that cover the Americas. Volume 2 looks at winter destinations while Volume 3 (expected to come out in Fall 2016) will focus on summer destinations. Doak has been somewhat controversial in his ratings and I’m looking forward to what he has to say.

The Midwest Associate: In the past couple of years, I have gotten my first look at the work of architect Perry Maxwell. Maybe because most of his work was done in the middle of the US, Maxwell doesn’t have the same profile as architects such as Donald Ross and Seth Raynor. But what I’ve seen of Maxwell — I have played Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club and recently saw the work he did with C.B. MacDonald at Crystal Downs — is really cool. I’m looking forward to learning more about a guy who was a genius at designing interesting green complexes with great internal movement.

When you live in a place where snow is a sad reality, you need something to get you through the winter. These three items will certainly help.

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2015: My golf year in photos

Officially, we still have several weeks remaining in 2015, but another round would be a huge upset.

I will write more about the year later. But here I will show you about my year.

I am a fan of Instagram. I like snapping iPhone pictures while I’m on the course. It doesn’t happen every hole or every round. I don’t post course tours, but my camera roll is littered with golf course pics.

Here are a few of my favorites and a tour of my 2015:

Jan. 9: Talking Stick North, Phoenix

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Feb. 17: Washington National Golf Club, Auburn, Wash.

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Feb. 21: Champions Golf Club, Houston

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April 4: FarmLinks, Sylacauga, Ala.

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April 6: Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.

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April 23: Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville, Ky.

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May 7: Olympia Fields Country Club (South), Olympia Fields, Ill.

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May 24: Southview Country Club, West St. Paul, Minn.

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June 15: Chambers Bay Golf Course, University Place, Wash.

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June 28: Olympia Fields Country Club (North), Olympia Fields, Ill.

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July 8, Midland Hills Country Club, Roseville, Minn.

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July 15: Crooked Stick Golf Club, Carmel, Ind.

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July 18: Midland Hills Country Club, Roseville, Minn.

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July 30: Orchard Lake Country Club, West Bloomfield, Mich.

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Aug. 1: Kingsley Club, Kingsley, Mich.

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Aug. 10: White Bear Yacht Club, Dellwood, Minn.

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Aug. 26: Olympia Fields Country Club (South), Olympia Fields, Ill.

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Sept. 10: Midland Hills Country Club, Roseville, Minn.

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Sept. 11: Midland Hills Country Club, Roseville, Minn.

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Sept. 19: Olympia Fields Country Club (South), Olympia Fields, Ill.

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Sept. 27: Town & Country Club, St. Paul, Minn.

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Oct. 11: Midland Hills Country Club, Roseville, Minn.

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Nov. 27: Wickenburg Ranch Golf Club, Wickenburg, Ariz.

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The good golf news (and the not so good news)

I must preface this by acknowledging that this is a first world problem or a golfer problem. This is not a real problem in the least.

Today, I am scheduled to play at one of the more difficult private clubs in the Twin Cities for this guy to access. I have been there a couple of times and while there is certainly significant money there, it isn’t snobby or snooty. It is just a place where I don’t really know any members and a place that isn’t exactly the normal place for a guy from Willmar to hangout.

The golf course is great. The place has great history. The whole deal.

The bad news? There is pretty much a 100 percent chance of rain. While I don’t always believe the forecast and I think that they tend to exaggerate the chance of rain, when they are in the 90- to 100-percent chance range, they are pretty darn confident.

Will I play? Probably.

I’m tougher than I used to be when it comes to bad weather, but I’m still not exactly a murder. I don’t love the idea of four hours under an umbrella and usually avoid it. It is probably part of the reason why I haven’t gone to Bandon — I don’t love the idea of playing with rain coming down sideways.

I have rain gear. I have rain gloves (a must for wet weather). I have some layers since it is going be in the mid-50s. I’m simply hoping for sporadic light rain. My fear is steady, pretty hard rain with bursts of really hard rain.

But when you have limited opportunities to play somewhere really good, you take them.

My round two years ago at Bethpage Black was in the rain from the first tee to the 18th green. I played Interlachen in snow flurries. I will suck it up today.

I’m just hoping that if it does rain — and the weather forecast is accurate — that it is of the light-green-on-the-radar variety and the yellows and reds stay away.

Why do I like putters that I can’t make work?

Winter is a dangerous time for this golfer. It is cold, there is snow on the ground, my world in Minnesota is not conducive to a life outside. That combination means too much time on the internet and too many weekend afternoons looking around in golf stores.

The obvious disclosure here is that I like golf clubs. I like looking at them, I like trying different clubs, I like reading about clubs online and I like to find good deals on clubs. I read and post on GolfWRX, I’m always on the hunt for a good deal on eBay.

And putters have become a weakness. We are in a time when many putters have are a nice combination of quality craftsmanship with a little bit of art. This winter, I coveted and eventually purchased a Bettinardi Studio Stock 12. I liked that it was a near center-shafted putter, I liked that it was milled in the USA, I liked that it was a little deeper from face to back, I really liked how it looked.

The problem is that I’m very much a straight-back, straight-thru putter (SBST) and this putter has a bit of toe hang. It wasn’t a good match. But in the middle of the winter, I’m just dumb enough to think I can make things work. I should know better.

After using the putter for one round in Minnesota, I brought the flat-stick with me on a recent trip to Alabama. I was arrogant enough that I didn’t even bring a second putter on the trip. It took about two rounds to realize that was a mistake. While I used the putter for the rest of the trip, it was mentally on the bench long before I was back in Minneapolis.

I need a face-balanced putter and I need a putter that is easy to line up. I simply make more putts that way. I used a face-balanced blade putter for a good part of last season, but I have recently picked up a new face-balanced mallet putter. While they can land a bit on the ugly side of the spectrum, they work for me.

I need to realize this. I need to accept this. And I need to realize that making putts with an ugly putter is way better than missing putts with a good-looking putter.

I don’t always remember this. But I need to.

My 2014 Golf: By the Numbers

I realize that the 2014 golf season has long been completed. I also know that I have already played 11 different courses in 2015. But before fully moving on to ’15, I wanted to look back at ’14.

It was a really good year. I didn’t always play the best, but for a kid from Willmar, I’m doing great when it comes to being able to play some cool places. I’m very fortunate and thankful for the ability to have met as many great people and seen as many great places as I have through golf.

I’m also very fortunate to have a great job in which my work travel can provide a chance to spend a few hours on a golf course. I don’t play golf on all of my work trips and don’t play on even half, but sometimes you can take a day off on front or back end of a trip and see some cool places. One example of this came about a year ago. I had meetings in Vancouver, BC on a Monday and Tuesday, so I took a vacation day, flew out on Friday and covered my own expenses for a couple of days. I was able to play Chambers Bay on Friday afternoon before playing Vancouver gems Capilano and Shaughnessy over the weekend.

A couple of other times, I was able to play evening golf and tee it up after spending the day in meetings. I’d certainly rather chase the sun on a golf course than just sit in my hotel room.

All of that said, here are the numbers/anecdotes:

Courses played: 35

States in which I played golf: 12 states plus two Canadian provinces

States where I had never played golf previously: 2 (Washington, Virginia)

State where I have now played golf in my lifetime: 33

New courses for me this year: 18

Different courses I have now played since 2002: 242

Major championship venues: 4 (Chambers Bay, 2015 US Open; Champions, 1969 US Open; Flossmoor, 1920 PGA; Keller, 1932, 1954 PGA).

Ross-designed courses: 3 (Dunedin GC, Beverly, CC of Buffalo).

Best 36-hole day: I don’t play many 36-hole days, but the early July day that featured a round at Flossmoor CC in the morning and Beverly CC in the afternoon was easily the best. Two golden age courses with interesting holes and green complexes is always a great way to spend a day.

Other courses of note: I thought Kinloch outside of Richmond lived up to the hype. Clovernook, a Langford/Moreau design in Cincinnati, has great green complexes and cool bunkering. I had a wonderful fall Saturday with a morning round at the very strong Eugene CC and the afternoon at the Michigan State at Oregon football game.

It was a great year. I’m a lucky guy.

Chambers Bay and a GoPro

So I recently picked up a GoPro camera. I’m certainly a rookie with it, but thought it would be a cool thing to try out.

I brought it with me on my recent trip to Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash. The course, which will host the 2015 U.S. Open, has some remarkable views out into the Puget Sound.

I’m not totally sure how the U.S. Open works there, but that’s probably content for another post. But the views are pretty cool.

Take a look and enjoy.

 

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My 2013 Golf: By the Numbers

As I start this post, I have exactly 1 hour, 40 minutes to complete this before 2013 is over and 2014 begins.

I haven’t teed it up in probably seven weeks or so, but the year is now officially over. Here’s a look at my season:

Courses played: 28 (full list can be found here)

States where I played golf: 10

States where I had never played golf previously: 2 (New York, Oklahoma)

States where I have now played golf in my lifetime: 28

New courses for me this year: 15

Different courses I have now played since 2002: 224 (list is here)

Major championship courses played in 2013: 1 (Bethpage Black)

Donald Ross designs played: 5 (White Bear Yacht Club, Cedar Rapids CC, Exmoor CC, Hillcrest GCC, Northland CC)

A.W. Tillinghast designs played: 2 (Bethpage Black, Golden Valley GCC)

Seth Raynor designs played: 2 (Midland Hills CC, Metairie CC)

Other architects of note: Tom Doak (Ballyneal); Coore & Crenshaw (Colorado GC); Langford & Moreau (Wakonda); Pete Dye (Des Moines North); Perry Maxwell (OKC GCC).

Rounds played: No idea as I didn’t track it as I did in 2012.

Complaints on my quality of golf in 2013: Zero